RACE DEBRIEF

    Of all the teams on the 2021 Formula 1 grid, McLaren may well have the toughest task in getting ready for the upcoming season as they swap Renault for Mercedes power units while also contending with the new downforce regulations. But Technical Director James Key revealed that the team were making good progress, helped by Mercedes’ “fantastic” contribution.

    Mclaren announced they had made the decision to switch to Mercedes power in September 2019, and late last year technical boss Key told the F1 Nation podcast how work was progressing on their 2021 challenger, complete with Mercedes power and a redesigned floor to accommodate the new downforce regulations.

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    “Yeah, we’re in reasonable shape, I think,” said Key on the podcast in December 2020. “We’re where we would expect to be at this time of year, despite the obvious delays we had earlier in the year.

    “Normally we’d want to start earlier than we did. We obviously didn’t start as early as we’d liked to have… but I think we caught up well. The interaction with Mercedes has been fantastic; they’ve been extremely supportive, recognised the fact that we had short timescales. And we’ve worked with them very effectively over the past few months.

    “And I think we’re where we’d expect to be with the maturity of the engine installation and the parts that we’re already making for ’21,” he said.

    That was after an extended mandatory factory shutdown affected all the F1 teams in Spring 2020.

    Moreover, while last year’s car designs are being carried over – and evolved for 2021 rather than overhauled – every team needs to contend with the new downforce changes this season. Major changes affect the cars’ floors, rear brake ducts and diffusers, while there’s also a $145 million cost cap coming into force this year.

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    McLaren used Honda power from 2015-17 then switched to Renault

    “So that’s still a work in progress,” continued Key. “We’ve had this project going for a while, although the total regulations for 2021 were quite late.

    “Yes we’re clawing it [the downforce cut] back; it was a reasonably big hit to begin with. Floor changes from the side profile of the floor which will be quite obvious on the 2021 car; small diffuser, rear brake ducts – they all influence a complex area of aerodynamics around the rear tyre and really it’s a case of trying to pull that back as best we can, and we are making progress every week at the moment, but there’s still some work to do,” he concluded.

    McLaren will head into the 2021 season with Mercedes engines, and ex-Red Bull and Renault racer Daniel Ricciardo on board alongside Lando Norris.

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